Saturday, May 21, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, May 21, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, four deaths are announced from yesterday's Green Zone breach and response, Haider al-Abadi looks increasingly inept, and much more.

Never think the White House gives a damn about the Iraqi people.

They don't.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Readout of the President's Call with Prime Minster Haidar Al-Abadi of Iraq

President Obama spoke by phone today with Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi of Iraq to reaffirm United States support for the Iraqi people and our common  fight against ISIL, as well as to offer condolences on behalf of the American people for the recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad. 
The two leaders discussed the progress being made in the Counter-ISIL campaign as Iraqi Security Forces continue their advance in Anbar province. The President reiterated United States support for the Iraqi Security Forces, emphasizing that as the campaign continues the United States and the International Coalition to counter ISIL will continue to play a key role in training, advising, and assisting Iraqi forces.
The President and the Prime Minister agreed on the critical importance of improving the security of Baghdad and the International Zone, noting the importance of continued dialogue among all parties in Iraq so that the Iraqi people can address their aspirations through their democratic institutions. 
President Obama commended the Prime Minister and the steps his government has taken in finalizing an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and agreed that it is important the international community support Iraq's economic recovery amidst its ongoing fight against ISIL. Finally, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.

What a curious statement.

Until you grasp that the IMF will do what the US couldn't force Iraqi lawmakers to do -- put a tag sale on Iraq's oil and gas industries.

That trumps everything, apparently.

It trumps the issue of the Green Zone breach yesterday.

You'll notice nothing on that in the read out.

Michael D. Regan (PBS' THE NEWSHOUR) reports:

Funerals were held on Saturday for two Iraqi people killed a day earlier during riots within Baghdad’s Green Zone, a secured area meant to protect government officials and foreign diplomats.
They were among two of four killed and nearly a hundred injured Friday after thousands of demonstrators, who are reportedly followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, breached the fortified section of Iraq’s capital city. The protest was over the country’s lack of security and the government’s failure to pass anti-corruption laws.

Susannah George (AP) identifies the two buried today as "Hussein Hasab, 21, and Haider Hassan, 43."  Ahmad Al-Rubaye (AFP) offers a photo with this caption, "Members of the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), a group formed by Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, ride a pick-up on May 21, 2016 in Baghdad as the coffins of two slain anti-government protesters are carried to Najaf."

Moqtada al-Sadr remaining in Tehran stands a big chance of being harmed.

The leader whose followers are slain?

While he's safe and out of the country?

And denying that he ordered the action?

Haider doesn't win from the incident either.

He's inept and that's only more obvious with Friday's actions.

Two people died.

Which will bother some Iraqis -- even those who favor 'rule of law.'

But the reality is that Haider was yet again unable to protect the Green Zone or, in this case, even his own office.

He's inept.

He's disgraced.

And Barack can try to prop him up all he wants but (a) people died and (b) the Green Zone was breached again.

Those two events speak for themselves -- and speak loudly against Haider.

NINA notes Haider issued a statement declaring that the storming of the Green Zone on Friday (and of his office) must not happen again. He dubbed it a distraction from the fight against the Islamic State.  AL MADA adds that the statement was aired on state TV in the early morning hours.

  • Events in , show that the political process is in turmoil & needs a radical revision in which all parties must cooperate.

  • While Barack had no interest in raising the topic, Mu Xuequan (XINHUA) reports:

    The UN envoy to Iraq on Saturday expressed deep concern about Friday's demonstrations when hundreds of followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr broke into the heavily fortified Green Zone, calling for calm and unity to achieve reforms and confront the Islamic State (IS) group which seizes parts of Iraq's northern and western regions since 2014.
    "What happened on Friday shows how events could take a different turn and escalate, causing casualties," UN envoy to Iraq Jan Kubis said in a statement.

    ALSUMARIA reports that Haider and Barack discussed the upcoming 'liberation' of Falluja.  In fact, that topic is in the statement released by the Prime Minister's office summarizing the phone call.

    Strange that it failed to make the statement released by the White House.

    Or strange until you realize that the White House is pushing for Mosul to be the next focus.

    This DoD article from Friday makes that clear:

    The military campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is at an important juncture, with a new focus and steady progress by the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi and Syrian security forces partners, Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland said here today.
    MacFarland, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, spoke with reporters who are traveling with U.S. Central Command commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, who is meeting this week with coalition troops and local counter-ISIL partners in the Middle East.
    “We’re at an important part in the campaign right now,” MacFarland told reporters. “When I first got here about eight months ago it was all about Ramadi and taking Ramadi back,” he said.
    “Well, we’ve taken Ramadi back,” MacFarland said, “and now, the focus of the campaign is shifting more toward taking back the enemy’s centers of gravity in Iraq and Syria -- Mosul and Raqqa. That’s what we’re about today.”

    Meanwhile the US Defense Dept released the following announcement earlier today:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL anti-air artillery piece.

    -- Near Huwayjah, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Fallujah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL improvised explosive device cache, two ISIL staging areas and an ISIL excavator.

    -- Near Habbaniyah, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Kisik, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL-used bridge and four ISIL-used culverts.

    -- Near Mosul, four strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, two ISIL assembly areas, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL supply cache, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL rocket rail.

    -- Near Qayyarah, two strikes struck an ISIL weapons cache and destroyed an ISIL mortar system.

    -- Near Rawah, a strike struck an ISIL staging area and an ISIL safe house.

    -- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area.

    -- Near Tal Afar, two strikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle storage area, two ISIL weapons caches, two ISIL command and control nodes, and an ISIL IED facilitation node.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

    Winding down, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration. Bacon is a journalist who actually covers labor as well as issues to do with poverty and the working class.  He's a photo journalist whose exhibits are always worth checking out and he has a new one this month.


    Homelessness and the struggle for housing
    in urban and rural California
    Photographs by David Bacon

    Asian Resource Gallery
    317 Ninth St at Harrison
    Oakland, CA

    May - June, 2016
    Reception: Tuesday, May 24, 6PM


    for more info:,
    sponsored by East Bay Local Development Corporation

    I believe a person should not have to worry day to day where they’re going to lay their head or get their next meal.  That should just be a given - James Kelly

    In the Bay Area and Los Angeles, homeless activists are taking the tactics of Occupy a step further, using encampments, or "occupations" as mobile protest vehicles.  Within them, the people sleeping in the tents develop their own community.  They organize themselves and work together.  They make decisions collectively.  And they develop their own ideas about what causes homelessness, and for short term and long term solutions to it.

    They've created what they call "intentional communities," not just as a protest tactic, but as places where they can gain more control over their lives, and implement on the ground their own ideas for dealing with homelessness.

    In rural California, homeless people are overwhelmingly farm workers.  Although they're working, they don't make enough to pay rent, and still send money back to their families in their countries of origin.  In settlements on hillsides in San Diego, or next to the Russian River in Sonoma County, they create communities bound together often by the indigenous language they bring with them from home.

    These photographs are a window into the reality experienced by homeless people in urban and rural California.  While there are important differences, it is not surprising that the experience and the circumstances are so similar, as is the effort to create community, no matter how difficult the conditions.  In both urban and rural areas people also fight for better housing, and for their right to exist in a public space.

    This photodocumentary was developed with the cooperation of California Rural Legal Assistance, the Community Action Network in Los Angeles, and the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales.  The purpose is to

    - document the similarities between rural and urban homelessness and lack of housing
    - promote common housing ideas that can meet the needs of both urban and rural homeless people
    - develop communication between urban and rural homeless and housing-deprived communities, to help people advocate for themselves.

    This show is especially dedicated to the homeless activists of Berkeley, who were first driven out of Liberty City last fall.  Then they were drive from the Post Office Camp, where they'd lived for 17 months, just as I was printing the photographs shown here.  Their vision is one we should pay attention to.  Instead the U.S. Post Office refused to listen or see what is in front of them, and used the brute force of the Postal Police to drive people away.  Instead of the camp and its residents, the City of Berkeley now has this fence and empty, fenced-off space - a monument to hostility to the poor and an eyesore in this supposedly progressive community.

    The following community sites -- plus THE GUARDIAN -- updated: